In a rare show of public unity, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell went to the Senate floor to press for speedy passage of a $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine, but were blocked by the Senate. Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is demanding changes to the legislation.
Despite high-level pressure from the two leaders, Paul refused to blink, meaning Schumer will need to take procedural steps to overcome his objection, which could take several days but will eventually lead to the passage of the supplemental spending bill in the next week. .
McConnell and Schumer on Thursday offered to allow a vote on Paul’s amendment, but he insisted that it be added to the underlying bill.
The change Paul is seeking would create a special inspector general to oversee how Ukraine’s military aid is spent. Members of both parties broadly agree with this notion, but forcing a change in the bill at this stage would be time-consuming and delay getting Ukraine’s needed help.
“The package is ready,” Schumer said. “The vast majority of senators on both sides of the aisle want this. Now there’s only one thing holding us back, the junior senator from Kentucky is holding back the speedy approval of aid to Ukraine because he wants to add his own changes directly to the bill at the last minute. His change is strongly opposed by many members of both parties.”
“We must vote on Senator Paul’s amendment, and then we must pass the supplement and we must do it today,” McConnell added.
“My oath of office is the US constitution, not for any foreign nation and no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is for the national security of the United States of America,” Paul said in his remarks before departing. oppose the rapid change to passage of the bill. “We cannot save Ukraine by condemning the US economy.”
Schumer responded that “it’s clear from the Kentucky junior senator’s remarks that he doesn’t want to help Ukraine.”
“That’s not the case for the overwhelming majority here,” Schumer said. “Again, all he will accomplish with his actions here today is delay this aid. Not to stop.”
Also on Thursday, Paul blocked passage of a bill intended to protect federal judges and their families from potential threats by keeping their personal information — such as home addresses, vehicle information and other personally identifiable material — from databases. and other public records.
The bill was created after the attack on the home of a New Jersey federal judge, Esther Salas, whose son Daniel was shot and killed by an angry lawyer who appeared before her in court.
Paul said he did not oppose the legislation, but wanted it expanded to include members of Congress and therefore prevented the bill from passing unanimously.
Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, who went to the floor to seek approval for the bill, said he would work with Paul to pass a separate bill dealing with concerns about lawmakers’ safety, but said adding Paul’s language would delay approval. of the underlying project. and therefore refused to accept his changes.
The action on the floor came amid debate over the safety of Supreme Court justices who are facing protests in their homes by abortion rights activists and others.